CNN reports that Virgin Atlantic's Richard Branson has announced his company has signed a deal with Mojave Aerospace Ventures, owned by U.S. entrepreneur Paul Allen. Allen funded the SpaceShipOne project, designed by Rutan and built by Rutan's company Scaled Composites. This deal will allow Virgin Galactic to offer the world's first commercial flights to space.
Passengers, in groups of five, could be sent into orbit by 2008 at around $200,000 a trip.
This could be a big week for private space flight. The Houston Chronicle reports that SpaceShipOne will attempt to win the Ansari X Prize, offered to the first private three-seat spacecraft to launch twice within two weeks:
Now, Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the project's financier, plan launchings of SpaceShipOne on Wednesday and Oct. 4.
If both attempts succeed, their Mojave Aerospace Ventures team will win $10 million and a shapely bronze and granite trophy.
Reuters reports that the da Vinci Project, a Private Canadian Spacecraft also competing for the X Prize has delayed its planned October 2, launch.
Information about attending the launch of SpaceShipOne is available here.